…bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. ESV 2 Corinthians 7:1
The fear of God confuses many Christians. We know Christ dies for our sins, so we shouldn’t fear God’s wrath. However, the Bible commands us to fear God, but what does that mean? Some say fearing God means to respect Him, and while I’m sure fear brings respect, it seems if that is all it means, then God would have said that in the first place. A friend forwarded me an excellent article by JoHanna Reardon that seemed to give some good insight. In short, fearing God should conquer our fear of the world and of ourselves.
Most of us fear the world on some level. We fear not having enough money. We fear losing our health. We fear losing loved ones. We fear Satan and his forces at work in our lives. We fear recessions, wars, layoffs, slander, burglary, cancer, divorce, accidents and so forth. Often, Christians counter this fear by asking God to help them handle these things. This merely reduces God to the level of the world. It’s kind of like a seesaw where we put our fear of the world on one side, and then try to have enough faith on the other side to balance things out. However, if we study Scripture, we are overcome with the awesomeness and greatness of God. We begin to see His holiness and grandeur (consider Isaiah 6, and some of the passages in Revelation). This perspective of God grows our fear of Him, and in the process, suddenly we aren’t afraid of the things in the world. They pale in comparison.
Sometimes we fear ourselves. We fear addictions and habits that control us. We fear how our personality drives us to act or respond in various situations. We fear our own bodies and minds will decay. In our quest for spiritual formation, we seek to fear God more than we fear ourselves. As He grows greater, our fears of ourselves grow smaller. Amazingly, as we grow in our fear of God, we see our fears of everything else fade, creating in us a love for God who rescued us from the things we fear. Hence growing in fear of God ultimately causes us to grow in love, and that’s what we call spiritual formation!